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A brief rundown of the long legal history of Trump’s travel ban

President Trump responds to the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling upholding his travel ban policy. (Video: The Washington Post)

In celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his travel ban, President Trump sounded surprised.

But legal experts closely following this year-and-a-half legal fight over three versions of the travel ban weren't surprised at all. The Supreme Court is the only federal court to rule in favor of it.

Here's a brief look at the relatively long legal history of the travel ban, which in its current iteration indefinitely bars most travelers from seven countries, six of which are majority-Muslim, from coming to the United States.

Days after he was inaugurated in January 2017: Trump issues a temporary travel ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries. He does it so abruptly that key members of his own Cabinet are caught off-guard, and Republican senators who might normally support such a measure are critical of it.

Protesters crowd airports, opponents quickly sue, and the ban gets put on hold by a federal judge in New York the next night.

March 2017: Trump issues a new version of the travel ban, which this time blocks travelers from six majority-Muslim countries. That also quickly gets put on hold by federal judges across the country.

July 2017: The Supreme Court lets some of Trump's second travel ban go into effect, but with a major caveat: He can't bar people who have relatives in the United States.

September 2017: Trump issues a third version of the travel ban. This one is meant to be in place indefinitely and expands to eight countries, six of which are majority-Muslim. Opponents promptly sue and again have success pausing it. One federal court in Richmond says the ban “is unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam.”

December 2017: Here is Trump's first big win: The Supreme Court decides to override lower courts and let the third version of the ban go into effect. It does not give a reason, but legal experts say this is a very good sign for the Trump administration as it prepares to defend the merits of the ban to the justices in April.

April: For the first time, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Trump's travel ban is constitutional. The justices specifically looked at the third version, but the overarching question before the court encompasses the past year's legal fights: Is the president allowed to bar some foreigners to keep the country safe? And what about this president, who campaigned on an all-Muslim ban and has tweeted anti-Muslim videos while president?

As The Post's Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes wrote: “A major issue for the court is separating 'the president' from 'this president.' "

Tuesday: We now know where a majority of the court stands. Presidents — even if they have advocated for a religious-based ban in the past — have the right to restrict immigration in the name of national security.

Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban

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